Company records 89 fire cases

FIJI Pine Ltd has recorded 89 fires this year, affecting a land mass of 2248 hectares.

The company’s general manager operations, Asesela Cokanacagi, said forest fires continued to be a major concern for the company because it directly impacted on production and reduced the quality of timber.

In 2014, 1234.9 hectares of land leased by the FPL was damaged through fire, destroying the pine along with it.

Similar figures were recorded in 2015 with a total land mass of 1702 hectares affected and 1001 hectares destroyed in 2016.

These figures were recorded from their Nabou, Nadi, Lololo, Ra and Bua pine stations.

Mr Cokanacagi was speaking at the National Forest Fire Management workshop facilitated by the Pacific Community at the Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa on Thursday.

He said most fires were because of arson.

Others were caused by hunters and spills from the cane field.

Mr Cokanacagi said one of the challenges was in dealing with landowners who had free reign over the land despite it being leased. “We still allow landowners to go to leased land and source their food and I guess that’s one of the major problems for us,” he said.

“Usually, there’s a fight and soon after a fire breaks out.

“There have been situations where the extent of fire has been so great that we refer to it as a fire bomb.”

FPL has the largest lease cover in the country with an area mass of 84,000 hectares.

Mr Cokanacagi said for most arson cases it was difficult to identify the culprit.

“We probably would have filed 100 reports with the police and not one culprit has been caught to this day,” he said.

“Because the lease arrangement allows landowners into leased property, the company has been more vigilant in screening those that visit them.

“If we see a private vehicle, we note down their names and even take a picture if we have to.

“Fire reduces the quality of our timber and it is the cause for a lot of slips, which in turn affects the waterways.

“We need more awareness and education on the effects of fires particularly to those at the grassroots,” he said.

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